Executives of Orange, the dominant provider of wireline and wireless services to French customers, confirmed late last week that they will not contest the decision of France’s antitrust authority to penalize Orange for certain anticompetitive practices that were implemented as far back as 2002.
Claiming that the actions undertaken by Orange have discouraged or prevented customers from switching to competitive carriers, France’s Autorité de la Concurrence (ADC) is demanding payment of a €350 million ($380 million) fine by Orange which is said to be the highest ever imposed on a single company by ADC since the regulation was established in the early 2000s. Spurred by complaints by Bouygues and SFR-Numericable, the principal rivals of Orange in the French telecommunications sector, the ADC cited Orange for marketplace abuses that include, among others, the establishment of customer loyalty programs with deep discounts and other enticements aimed at discouraging subscriber defections to competitors and the withholding competitive access to information concerning Orange’s copper line network facilities. Although Orange has discontinued some of the practices in question, ADC—which has sanctioned Orange seven times over the last 15 years “for similar predatory practices and discrimination”—contends that others continue to this day.
Orange has agreed to pay the fine and change its commercial practices within 18 months to (1) guarantee equivalent access to information about its copper local loop network, and (2) amend or abolish its customer loyalty programs. As he confirmed his company’s intention “not to contest or appeal against the decision of the [ADC] on this matter, that relates exclusively to the potential rather than actual impact on the market of the relevant practices,” a spokesman for Orange added: “we will be able to put this matter, that has been outstanding for many years, behind us and remove any possible uncertainties surrounding the terms of our service offer for clients going forward.”